There are some days when we are the best version of ourselves, and so it was for Washington last Wednesday. The weather — a raging 85 degrees F — said summer but the cherry trees insisted it was spring, bursting forth in clouds of pale pink, adorning the Tidal Basin in frills.
The first time I experienced the magic of cherry blossoms — and I don’t mean just one flowering tree, but an unfurling of soft petals en masse — was in Japan. My first visit to Tokyo coincided with
sakura “hanami,” the period of peak blossom-viewing. In the parks that dot the city’s concrete jungle, I watched crowds of ecstatic locals gather to picnic under branches draped in voluminous blooms. I spotted women decked out in traditional kimonos wandering amid petal-strewn paths. Schoolgirls toted sacks of McDonald’s to eat beneath the trees, alternating bites of Big Mac with squeals and sighs. The entire city seemed to burst forth in joyous celebration — of nature, of beauty, of life.
In Washington last week, I felt that same palpable joy — perhaps no coincidence since the original cherry trees here were a 1912 gift from Japan. Crowds of locals and tourists circled the Tidal Basin, making it difficult to walk. But we were a happy and patient group, offering to take photos of one another, strangers united by a heady burst of sunshine, and heat, and nature (and, happily, no pollen — yet — to torment allergy sufferers). I wish I’d had the time to make a picnic; instead, I ate a store-bought sandwich in a shady spot and admired the ruffly ring of pale pink against the distant monuments.
“When the first rain comes, the petals fall and sakura is over,” a Japanese friend told me all those years ago on my first visit to Tokyo. On Wednesday, the flowers were lush and full, the petals scarcely fluttering from the trees. Two days later, a thunderstorm hit and the peak blossoms were finished. It was proof of nature’s beauty — so vibrant, so ephemeral — just like life itself.
Alas, I didn’t have time to pack a picnic. But I’m eyeing these recipes for next time:
Fantastic sandwich-building tips (Bon Appétit)
Ugly but completely delicious spinach tikkis (Miss Masala)
Panzanella salad, broken down (Misanthropic Hostess)
Edamame and pickled veg sushi (Art & Lemons)